If there’s one skill I’ve mastered in lockdown, it’s my ability to overthink and linger on the past. With a lot of free time comes the unearthing of conflict, the seeking for answers and an overwhelming struggle to move forward.
What if I’d said this? What if they’d done that? How did we end up here?
When I find myself questioning, or constructing points for arguments that ended long ago, I remember what everyone always says. Just move on! Let bygones be bygones. Forgive and forget. All of it is easier said than done, but that last one? The last one I particularly struggle with.
The phrase ‘forgive and forget’ is widely circulated, often sold as a catch-all solution that allows us to take any grievances we have and throw them into the void. Forgiving and forgetting gives us the upper hand.
It shows we have a sense of superiority. The ability to walk away from a conflict that offers no closure and yet somehow make our own. When hurt, forgivers and forgetters believe you should compartmentalise those feelings and simply… move on. But why?
I’m all for creating your own closure, or accepting situations, conflicts, people, and mistakes as they are. Not everything will end neatly with a little bow on top. But to forgive and forget is to ignore. It’s to close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and turn your back on what’s right in front of you.
Rather than forgiving and forgetting, I’ve decided to be wholly and completely invested in my relationships – and that means being invested in the screw-ups as well. I don’t have the energy to tip-toe, to feel uncomfortable or disrespected by those who are meant to make me feel the opposite.
I’m sure you’ve seen the quotes going viral online, about how ‘the best apology is changed behaviour’, and it’s true. Those who value you, your mental health, your time, and your relationship will amend their behaviour; if it’s something they truly care about. Learning that takes time, but it’s a necessity.
Changing my approach to such issues changed not only the way I saw others but the way I saw myself. There’s no shame in creating a standard of behaviour that you expect in your life – you are deserving of respect, loyalty, love and light, and you deserve those sorts of relationships.
When someone fails to give you that, you’re allowed to walk away or demand a change, particularly when there’s a noticeable pattern. Allowing yourself to validate your own experiences and discomforts is necessary in maintaining strong relationships with yourself and those around you.
Don’t just brush how you feel under the rug.
Even the times where I’ve lost friends, ruined relationships or made mistakes. Omitting the ‘forgive and forget’ proverb forces me to take accountability for my actions.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the person I was a few years back: moody, insecure, and very good at playing the victim. I was mad at the world, for whatever reason, and so I was mad at everyone around me.
I would argue until I was blue in the face, cry until I’d given myself a headache, and take out my feelings on those I love just to feel a sense of security when we made up.
Now I’m older, and I’ve had to learn my lesson; it was either that or lose the ones closest to me. They couldn’t keep forgiving me, or forgetting how I was acting, because that only enabled me.
Instead, I took accountability for my behaviour. I did a lot of work on myself and my behaviours and began making better choices by those I love. If they hadn’t put me in that position, I wouldn’t have recognised my ongoing pattern of behaviour, and I definitely wouldn’t have grown.
Of course, people have misunderstandings or falling outs. I’m not saying you have to cut everyone out or put them on a ‘three strikes’ kind of set up; but you should still allow yourself the space to feel.
Forgiving and forgetting only works if you’re fully able to shrug off those feelings resentment-free, and even then, there’s no promise of changed behaviour. Don’t get caught up in repeated cycles of conflict and resolution, only to realise it wasn’t worth it awhile later.
I don’t need to forgive and forget, because I prefer growth.
Forgiveness only soothes not mends, nor does it change what’s been done. We all mess up, and we all seek to make amends. But rather than asking for forgiveness, why don’t we ask how to move forward? What else do we have to learn? How can we grow together?
Featured image credit: Themedium.com